Monday, April 26, 2010

A sudden block

Today morning I was very fluent while talking over the phone with 2 complete strangers in detail. And I was gaining tremendous confidence. My beliefs, perceptions, attitude was very positive. And then it was this guy who asked me a question. I knew him. And then I had this sudden block where I struggled. I immediately wanted to run away and hide. After block, my mind was like why did I block? What happened now? I thought that I had found the solution to fluency. Now what happened? Why did I block again? And then there was a sudden shift in my beliefs, attitude, perception, feeling. I started to become more hesitant, my speaking rate was fast, I was more agitated. I desperately craved for fluency. I didn't want to again get into that phase of blocking.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thoughts and fluency

These past few days, I had been very busy with my exams so didn't get chance to think about speech or stuttering or fluency. And so I didn't stutter as much, or if I did I didn't care about it as much. So overall feeling good about my speech. Interesting.
Today, I wanted to call AOL teacher and ask her about the Cleveland trip. At first, I wanted to avoid talking and use email which I did, but she didn't responded. Then I had no option but to call her. I didn't want to look stupid. I didn't want to stutter on the very first word over the phone. So I was glad that she didn't answer but I decided to leave her a voicemail. I was glad and felt good about the fact that I didn't block in the first few words. And then I had this major block on one word and felt that she wouldn't take me seriously because I block. I felt she wouldn't respond to me because I don't deserve to be called back.
Then I had to call a stranger who had left me a voicemail yesterday. I tried my best to be calm and say the first few words right. To my surprise, I stuttered and didn't feel good about speaking. I didn't want to struggle. What opinions he would have of me? I wanted to finish the conversation as fast as I can so I was looking for short-cuts. I didn't care about his needs. My only concern was not to block when I was speaking with him. Despite having made attempts not to think about it, I was still not able to leave this concern of blocking from my mind and focus on fluency.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Interview today

Today morning I had the interview and I seemed to have prepared a little last night, focusing more on the content of the talk rather than how I say it. I even wrote it down on a piece of paper to make sure that my thoughts progress in a smooth flow. So today I went visualizing positive self-talk and affirmation. I even tried to recall the times when I had been fluent and in control of myself. So then it was time and i entered the interview room. For the first 10-15 minutes I was calm and composed and seemed to be pretty fluent. And then I stumbled in between which further increased it and then i began to struggle a little here and there. I wanted the interview to just end at that time. Maybe i stumbled more later on because I wasn't sure what to say. Or maybe I wasn't genuine. OR maybe I wanted to hide any more blocking so I purposely chose words and phrases where I won't stutter. I was holding back and didn't feel comfortable blocking. I felt maybe interviewers wouldn't understand what I'm saying. And so I felt that pressure to speak fluently and in a perfect manner.
I know I'm pretty busy these next few days but I can still play observer role and thinking more about positive speaking situations and feelings of confidence, control and calmness before, during and after speaking .

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Exam time and fluency

Today I had been very busy studying for my exam tomorrow so I didn't get any chance to work on my speech. I also didn't meditate or read any self-help book today. So today my speech was a little disfluent and I noticed that I was talking at a very rapid pace. Maybe it was due to the exam stress and it showed in my speech. When I wasn't relaxed and state of my mind was in anxious and panic mode. Maybe it was my default behavior that showed up in high-stress situation. Tomorrow I also have a short presentation. Even though I don't feel worried about it, I feel that I could be more fluent if I focus a little on positive thoughts and emotions.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Speaking Ladder

Today, I felt as if I was getting back to my old patterns related to stuttering, the only difference was that I had positive emotions and feelings and intentions were right. So this means that even if I have a stuttery day, I can still monitor the way I feel towards myself and the way others perceive me. I feel I got back to my old habits because they were better attuned to my system and it would take constant effort and focus on my part in ensuring that new neural pathways of fluency dictate my mindset at all times.
It is useful to think of the speaking ladder. Start with an easy situation first, gain confidence and use it to go on to a little challenging situation and so on. This would also activate the neural pathway of fluency and make my mind think that I'm fluent.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Today's Presentation

Wow! Today's presentation went great. I stuttered a few times in between but I was mostly fluent and in control. Even few people told me afterwards that they liked the presentation. I now realize the importance of mind. How changing thoughts and feeling and deceiving the mind is actually possible and then the end result is fluency. I am really not my mind. It is something else. It craves each moment. Now the question is how to reprogram my mind so it continuously think positive thoughts no matter what happens. And I believe that it is possible to program my mind where it thinks mostly of positive thoughts and have positive emotions. It was truly an achievement today. What a shift from yesterday when I couldn't speak even one word to the time when stuttering is out of my mind. What mysterious thing is this mind? Well, my journey has only begun. I have a long way to go. But I'm surely taking the right path now. I make a promise now that I won't ever lose trust in myself and faith in this higher power.

Mind and Fluency

I was having a little stuttery phase yesterday and felt a lot of fear. And then I read again Linda Rounds book. She talked about mind and how we are separate from our mind. And she pointed out it is important to run our minds rather than let mind to run us. So I tried it out and it worked. I noticed at that time that my beliefs were that I would stutter even if I talk one sentence. And my feeling was negative and that of frustration. And my tendency was to avoid speaking. So I thought about the times when I were fluent. Maybe times when I was in New York doing AIS therapy or when I gave my one particular toastmasters speech when I was extremely fluent. And then I shifted my focus on feeling to think about the moment when I felt great. Absolutely great. Maybe it was when i was enjoying dancing. And then I focused on that feeling for some time. And then I focused on the times when my intentions were to speak and not avoid at any costs. Putting all this focus brought a sudden shift in my emotions, attitude and mood. And then I happened to talk to someone for a minute because they asked me something. I was mostly fluent talking with them. I kept this memory of fluency and then answered a phone call from a friend and said hello thinking that I have been just fluent. And then I spoke with him keeping in mind that I said hello and first few words without stumbling. Like this, I kept on going. And then it was time for me to rehearse the presentation in front of my group. To my surprise, I was mostly fluent. And then I kept this memory, and rehearsed again and now I was even more fluent and confident. And then suddenly, I felt good about giving the presentation. Now my presentation is in 20 minutes and instead of feeling nervous, I'm feeling excited and thrilled.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Moment of Blocking

I went to meet a person in my project group. And I blocked with her a lot. In the starting, I was fine. And then I was finding it hard to explain to her without blocking especially when I had to explain in detail. It wasn't that I was seeking approval. But I felt some pressure to speak fluently. At times, I even started to avoiding because I felt that I would block if I speak. It seemed like a struggle. At the same time, I couldn't stay quiet because then she would feel that I am not serious about the project. So maybe it was that added pressure on me not to stay quiet that forced me to speak and stutter. I ask myself, Do I feel pressured to speak all the time? Yes, most times I do. how can I make speaking fun instead of a struggle ?
For tomorrow, my goal is to continue with the observer role. More specifically, observe the feeling at the moment of blocking, accept it and let it go. and then move on, again accept the feeling and then move on. As far as eye-contact goes, I could maintain it when I was relatively fluent and confident. But it was still challenging to do so when blocking or when caught in a severe blocks withe the same person during a short-span of time, my feelings were negative due to avoidance. Maybe I even had divided intentions at that time, to speak or not to speak. It was at this time when I found it extremely challenging to maintain eye-contact.

Taking Responsibility

Today I was unable to wake up on time even though I set two alarms. I was just lazy and even though I realized that I would be wasting time if I sleep anymore, I didn't feel excited enough to face this new day. As soon as I woke up, I dressed up and went for my class. This time I listened carefully to other group's presentations. I also sat next to a friend who asked me to sit with him. When talking with him, I was going at a fast pace again and my focus was on speaking fluently. Maybe I wanted to show him that I can speak fluently. Or the tone of his voice or the way he was looking at me put some pressure on me to respond quickly to him. Or maybe I felt uncomfortable in slowing down or raising my voice in front of him or taking my time in speaking. And then a girl came and sat next to me on the other side. I knew her but didn't even say hi. I felt it would look awkward if I greet her or maybe it would show to her that I'm too much interested in her. And to my other friend, I gave away all the power and control of our conversation. I responded the way I thought he expected me to respond in the way that he wouldn't feel hurt. So in some way, I was again seeking approval.
Then the class got over and I had to meet a person from my project group in an hour. Meeting her was fine. I was in control. Maybe this time I had kept that power in our conversation where I hadn't given all control to her. I also volunteered to participate/take initiative in listing down our ideas on a piece of paper and drawing a logical conclusion out of that. I felt that she was following me well and taking this responsibility allowed me to also retain power in our conversation. But my speaking rate was still fast, maybe because she was also speaking at a fast face and expected me to respond quickly.
After that, I went to the gym. I met another friend in there. I surprisingly had a lot more blocks when talking to him. Maybe it was because he's voice is very loud and expressive. So maybe I was finding it hard to match his voice tone. And felt as if he already had that control over our conversation and in that respect, I felt somewhat inferior to him.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Power and Control

Last night I read John H.'s book and found the first few pages really interesting. In his book, he describes the first step to be claiming space and maintaining a firm support on the feet. The main purpose of this exercise was to get comfortable on stage or during the situations where we feel extremely uncomfortable or prone to stuttering. This was interesting as it provided guidance on how one could become more comfortable during the moments of blocking or when dealing with the fear prior to blocking. The second exercise John described was to speak up and this means raising volume to as much as 10 times to the current volume. This exercise was to test the amount of power we like to keep during conversations and how we can increase that power. The third exercise was to talk in a melodious tone as if you are talking to a toddler. This would make speech more interesting to people and to bring expressions and emphasis in out speaking. The fourth exercise was to add pauses to make speech more dramatic. As a PWS, we fear silence and more specifically abrupt pauses between our blocks. And by doing this exercise, we would be in more control of the times when we space out or get stuck up in massive blocks. The fifth exercise was to maintain eye-contact with the audience. John also detailed a follow-up exercise which I would read again tonight and practice it. John also mentioned a very important point that it is important to apply these exercises to the point where you feel uncomfortable. This uncomfortable feeling is natural and if it is not there, that means you ought to exaggerate more what you are doing. Reading these few points gave me a lot of confidence for today's presentation.
I woke up in the morning and my mind was still thinking about those few points. I was constantly going to the moment when I would be presenting and watching out for the feared words. Despite me realizing it, it was hard to control my mind going back again and again to that moment where I would block. I was thinking of strategies that I read from John's articles to apply in the situations where I felt I would stutter. And then I went to my first class, and had to speak with professor regarding the final project. At first, my mind was thinking about the words where I would block when speaking with him and then I told myself that I would be fine following John's techniques. So I went to speak with the professor. When I was about to speak, I was a little nervous and it showed in my voice. But once I started and continued and didn't stutter much after that.
My next meeting was with my project group just before the presentation. I rehearsed my part in front of them once. For the first few minutes, I was absolutely fluent. I had tried to slow down my pace by adding those pauses and emphasis in my speech. But still I was finding it hard to keep eye-contact. I realized it and once even looked at someone in the group. But when I anticipated blocking, I looked away and continued doing so.
Now it was time to enter the class and wait till the other groups finished presenting since ours was last. I noticed that my attention was on how would I be presenting and how would other people think of me once they saw me presented. How can I control their judgments of me? So instead of paying attention to other's presentation, I was constantly finding ways to make people like me. So mind was thinking that surely I'm gonna block and look nervous, but how can I do it so that my classmates like me.
And then it was our turn. I tried to appear calm and confident. I even took the clicker and felt it thoroughly. And then I waited with patience for my turn to speak. And then it was my turn. I took the clicker walked to the center of the stage and began with loud confident voice and pauses. The first few minutes went quite well. And then after some time I anticipated a feared word and then I tried hard not to stumble upon it. I managed to pass through it with little repetition, but it shook me a little. And now I looked a little anxious and then another feared work I anticipated and blocked on it and so and so it went. Then my part was done and I felt glad that it's over now. Even though I felt relieved for the presentation to be done, I felt a little humiliated with looking nervous and out of control. What must have other people thought about me? I can't even give this simple presentation??
But somehow there was less fear in me in approaching people now. I would just go to some person I knew and start talking to him or her. And what I said to seemed to be genuine and I felt good about it. Then I had to meet another group in an hour. And I felt comfortable meeting them and sharing my ideas with them. I didn't hesitate to give my ideas. The main blocks that happened were due to my anticipation of feared words and getting anxious about encountering them.
I also realized that my speaking pace was a lot faster now. Then I had to meet a second group and even though I appeared to be confident and I spoke a lot faster and again my tendency was to fight the blocks and also the moment when I anticipated blocking, especially on feared words. I tried to substitute my low control over my speech by telling people that I am this and I am that, showing my positive side to people so that they approve of me despite my blocking.
At last I came back home tired and felt my speech muscles are exhausted. In my mind, I was still wondering that how should I handle blocks. My options in not to stutter and speak fluently.

I also realized that why I always stumble on the phone saying "hello". It was because I already give the other person all power and control over the conversation. If I say "hello" with a slightly loud voice, or in animated tone I won't block.

For tomorrow, my goal is to maintain more eye-contact with people even during the moments of blocking and also to monitor my pace by adding pauses in between. And also, to continue with the observer role.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Observer Role at the project meeting

I entered the room to meet my project group and was relaxed and calm. I was having fun and enjoying being with the group. And then it was time to rehearse our part of the presentation. When talking, I wasn't sure about what I was saying. I looked for approval from my group members regarding what I say make sense. Also, my tendency was to focus on being fluent and not to block instead of focusing on the content of my presentation. I also didn't have eye-contact. I was either looking up at the blank walls or down or on the side where nobody was there. My tendency was to rush through and get done with speaking as soon as I can. I was far from being comfortable speaking my part out during rehearsal. When I said one or two feared words without stumbling, I was very excited and happy and didn't care about if the phrase had proper transition. I expected people to know that I stutter so I didn't feel obligated to speak fluently. But I wanted to make sure that I say my stuff on time so that other group members have sufficient time to say their part. After rehearsal, I went with a friend to eat dinner. I surprisingly had more blocks speaking with him, even more than when I was speaking with my group. And I also realize that I usually have more blocks speaking with him. I don't know why that happens. He's a good friend and very understanding. I have even self-advertised with him that I stutter. Maybe it's because I had already given him a lot of power and control over the situation. Or maybe his voice tone is dominant and I act submissively in front of him. Or maybe it's because I do whatever he tells me to do. It feels like he has a lot of control over what my behavior.

Tonight I plan to read John Harrison's article on public speaking and also to visualize myself enjoying delivering presentation, where my focus is to make audience understand and enjoy what I'm saying instead of the fluency. For tomorrow, I would continue with the observer role and also see if I realize something new reading John H's book.

Faith and Fun - the 2 Big F's

I woke up today quite late. As soon as I got out of my bed, I realized I had to meet my project group in 2 hours and I hadn't yet done my part of the work. I rushed out of my bed and brushed my teeth. My mind was still in a mess. I was thinking of the class presentation that I had to give on Monday and I wasn't ready for it. I had been having some pretty bad blocks lately and was scared to speak in front of the class. I didn't want to end up struggling again in front of everyone. I thought in my mind that I shouldn't have applied to business school. It's just too challenging for me with all these group projects and presentations. So that brought about many more negative thoughts in my mind and I was worried. Then somehow a thought entered my mind, maybe it was from Linda Round's book, "Remember to trust yourself all the time in this process towards fluency." I realized that I wasn't trusting myself.

The moment I realized this, I told myself, "Ok. From now on, I would trust myself fully and completely, no matter what happens." When I said this, from somewhere another thought entered my mind and this time it was about faith. I remembered saying to myself a long time back that, "I have full faith in myself, in God, in Nature and in this supreme power that governs the whole universe."

The moment I said this, there was a sudden shift in my thoughts and I soon realized that negative thoughts dissolved and my mind was somewhat at peace. Then another thought came in, this one struck in mind for a long time. It was about having fun and enjoying every moment. I asked myself, "Do people really enjoy communicating? What is the purpose of communication?"

I went back in my mind to the time when humans started to communicate with one another. Before the development of language, they must have been communicating through body language, more so eye-contact, hand gestures, face expressions, etc. And communication was done mainly to transmit information, to inform about the impeding danger or food hunt, etc. How about I go back to those times and see myself communicating. Would I be able to communicate effectively? Yes, ofcourse. Would I struggle communicating? Not at all. Would I enjoy communicating? Yes, maybe. I would also use it as a means to connect with people, form social bondings, etc and it would be as essential tool for me.

And then how about I go back to the time when humans started speaking language. Language consisted mainly of sounds, short syllables or phrases. The sounds would have their own meanings and it would be faster to communicate messages through words or phrases. I could feel myself enjoying communication. And I was grateful for having sounds and words to aid in the process of communication

Now I again see myself and recall the times when I have truly enjoyed communication. I realize that there have been a lot of such times. Then I ask myself, can I enjoy communication now? I think about it and it seems like I could enjoy communication. So would it matter if I block or not? Maybe not if I don't struggle. Do I have to struggle while communicating? No, I don't.
What if I block? Yes I can still block without struggling. So now would it matter if I block? No. maybe not. So should the goal of my speech to be fluent? No. That's a very wrong goal when the purpose of communication is to transmit information. So should I judge the success of my communication by how fluent I am? No. Communication is a tool to ease transfer of information. So is there really any success or failure attached to speaking?

The moment I realized this, I gave myself freedom to block. And then now 1 hour left before I had to meet my group. I quickly worked on my stuff and went to the meeting. I entered and was relaxed. I even cracked a few jokes here and there. My mind was not thinking about blocking at that time. I didn't feel afraid to share my thoughts, although I repeated a few words in between. Maybe that repetition was part of my comfort zone. But at the end, I felt much more comfortable. I have still to work more on observing myself in the moment of stuttering. My goal is to do it for the next group meeting later tonight.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Observor Role

Today, I had planned to actively observe my thoughts (mind) and my behavior. At first, I was doing a good job at ordering food, talking over phone and speaking with my friends. I was in the state of fluency. I was feeling calm, confident and in control. In the evening, I had to meet a project group. Before meeting them, I was still calm and relaxed. In fact, for the first few minutes talking with them, I was quite fluent. My mind was also clear and I could focus well. I was in the present moment. Then, somewhere in between (maybe unconsciously) I started avoiding speaking a sentence because I was anxious stumbling upon the feared word. I didn't notice it at once. After some time when I was aware of it, I consciously decided to speak the sentence despite fear. Not surprisingly, I blocked on the feared word, my face tensed and expressionless. I didn't like that state and tension on my face. I felt that if I talk then people would anyway either not listen to me or not understand what I'm saying. More so, I wanted to run away from the embarrassment of looking weird. I didn't want to struggle any more. If speaking was a struggle, then I felt at that moment that it was better to keep quiet and listen to what everybody was saying. I would just act nice and do what others tell me to do. That way, they won't be angry with me. Even if I don't contribute much in the discussion, they would not be harsh to me if I do what they tell me to do. If I let them have the control of the situation and let them have that power over me. This would be a good escape for me from embarrassment and guilt (for not doing as much work as my group members).

So when meeting with my group, I had wanted to actively participate and contribute. But I felt that even if I participate, I would still not have power or control and no matter how much I work, I would be considered unworthy and incapable. Plus, my opinions might not matter or would just be ignored because I won't be able to support them with enough data. Even if I have data and evidence, they won't carry weight because I won't be able to tell them clearly and persuasively. And since other people have better persuasive skills than me, they would always dominate group discussions. So instead of spending all effort in thinking and trying to contribute, it's better to let them do all the work. Anyways, they are going to have all the power and respect in the group no matter how much work I do. One can easily manipulate power and control through words so I would never have any respect in group discussions. So I have been just letting others do all the work and this has led me to my blocking. Part of the reason I blocked was due to my frustration at not being able to express my point of view effectively.

After the project meeting, I went out for dinner with a few of my friends. At that time, I constantly reminded myself of following the observer role and not worry about being dysfluent. No matter how much I appeased myself, I was feeling anything close to being comfortable. From inside, I was tired of being caught in this cycle of blocking and craved for freedom. I wanted to free from this restless mind and a state of not being in control. Despite this state, I tried to not show it outside and be funny in whatever way possible. It worked to some extent. But I knew that it was not my genuine state. Coming back from dinner, I opened msn messenger and started chatting with some people. I felt it was a good way to express myself since I couldn't do it orally. Now I feel that I can no longer escape and it's important to face reality. So I created this blog and writing down my thoughts.

Tomorrow's goal is to continue with the observor role and focus more on observing myself as a third person in the moment of blocking. I would try my best to accept any speaking situation and moment and not judge it as good or bad.